Renaissance thinker Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
That’s a big “if.”
Old Niccolo was talking about the ruling of kingdoms. When it comes to managing people on a smaller scale, we think it’s totally possible to be both. You can be loved and if not feared, then at least obeyed.
Since Machiavelli didn’t write a follow-up to The Prince for middle managers, we did it for him with this guide.
What follows are more than half a dozen management tips that will help you find the sweet spot between adoration and obedience from your employees. Read on to become the office statesman you were born to be.
8 Management Tips to Live By
Whether you’re a first-time manager or you’ve been in the game for decades, it’s never too late to learn new strategies for dealing with people.
People are the most volatile resource many businesses have since they’re always changing. Not every single person will respond the same to your management style, which is why you have to be flexible.
These eight tips will give you the flexibility to be firm but fair. You can be kind when the situation calls for kindness and strict when it’s time for decisive action.
Let’s teach you how.
1. Get Things Done
The Harvard Business Review regularly publishes management tips. In fact, the journal wrote a whole book titled Management Tips. In that book, the experts from HBR talk about prioritizing productivity in your workday.
Their tips include getting three items on your to-do list done before noon, breaking projects into parts, tackling difficult tasks first, and performing similar tasks at the same time.
When you do these things yourself, you show your employees that you’re serious about the work you do together. They’ll take their cues from you without you even having to say a word.
2. Act “as If”
Confidence is a critical leadership skill. No one wants a sniveling neurotic leading them into battle.
You don’t have to know what to do in every situation you face as a manager. All you have to do is pretend you do.
Of course, asking for help is a wonderful thing, as is careful analysis. But if you’ve exhausted these resources in the process of performing an action or making a decision, you may simply need to act “as if” you already have the thing you want, whether that thing is a particular new client or the respect of your employees.
By acting the way you would if you already had the object of your desire, you’ll project confidence and become the kind of manager employees flock to.
3. Prioritize Quality over Quantity
No one wants to be overworked. The taskmaster boss is an archetype that goes at least as far back as Ebenezer Scrooge. Why not flip to the end of A Christmas Carol and start your management career by valuing your employees?
Valuing them means not expecting more from them than they can produce. It’s within your rights to be realistic about their work. Let them know you want high-quality work more than a heavy stack of papers in your inbox, and they’ll meet your realistic expectations and value you in return.
4. Spend Time Reflecting and Self-Evaluating
You must manage the manager. This is not an optional tool. It’s key to your success.
All you need is one hour a week. Take that time to give yourself a performance review, but it can be more meditative and less formal than a typical performance review.
Think back to the most important events of the week and how you handled them. Where did you succeed? Where did you fail?
Be honest with yourself in these meetings, and what you learn will make you more even-keeled in your dealings with employees.
5. Reject “Either/Or” Thinking
There’s a lot about our stereotypical image of a boss that needs to go. Foremost among those things is the idea that bosses pit ideas against each other.
When you’re in a meeting and multiple people speak up, be quick to synthesize the ideas you hear. How can they exist in harmony with each other?
These people wouldn’t bring up these ideas if they didn’t have reasons for doing so. There are multiple truths that can exist in the same office at once. Pay attention to these possibly conflicting realities, and seek to resolve them.
When you take this path, your employees may be surprised. This is not typical manager behavior.
That’s good. Let them see you as encouraging and creative business minded.
6. Be an Active Listener
Few people really listen in conversations rather than just wait their turn to speak. Master active listening, and you’ll immediately stand out to employees as an empathetic ear. Here are a few concrete tips on how.
- Maintain eye contact
- Don’t interrupt
- Sit still and don’t fidget
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions
- Lean forward to engage the speaker
- Ask relevant questions
Click here for more strategies that can increase employee engagement.
7. Draw Clear Boundaries
This is hard to do, especially if you’ve just been promoted to manage your coworkers. Resist the urge to be everyone’s best buddy. Tame your inner Michael Scott!
When you draw clear boundaries between your professional life and your personal life, your role as a manager and your friendships, your employees may have a hard time at first. Some people want to act overly chummy with their boss. But after you establish the boundaries, your employees will appreciate the smooth relations that result.
8. Four Simple Words
“What do you think?”
It’s 2018. The myth of genius is dying. You don’t have to be responsible for the totality of your company’s innovation.
When you humble yourself to get the input of your employees, they will humble themselves to follow your instructions when it comes time. And they’ll love you for asking in the first place.
Two Sides of Leadership
Machiavelli or no Machiavelli, we think it’s clear you can foster relationships with your employees in which they both love and obey you. You can manage and not micromanage.
The management tips found here are just the beginning of your mastery of human communication. For more, explore all of our guides to exceptional people and behavior.